The Wonderlands released a powerhouse of an R&B, indie-pop EP called This Digital Life and it's packed with old school and new school styles, soulfully charged vocals and it all comes through as a damn good time.
The EP touches of folk, singer-songwriter, and more as it plays on and showcases the artists passionate vocals and anthemic songwriting overtone.
The songs boast ambient guitars, haunting backing notes scattered through atmosphere, and some very upfront and honest lyrical content.
Most tracks feel like they are pretty personal and really reach into chapters in songwriter Miles Jena's own life, using his songs as an emotional platform.
The full album has a heavy radio pop feel and it does feel almost like a concept album as a whole. Perhaps it is. Either way these are relatable songs with beautiful changes and flawless performances.
With such a banger of a record, we had to sit with Miles Jena to talk about where it all came from.
RAG: Okay Miles, let's start with The This Digital Life album. This record is loaded with R&B and indie-pop vibes that infuse contemporary and even jazz undertones. Where did this album come from?
Miles: This album came out of a desperate need to say what I had been thinking for the last few years. I was upset about my life, the cycle of social media and consumerism, while at the same time was happy to be alive and thankful for everyone in my life. I am a music student, and have been heavily influenced by a large exposure to jazz and R&B at school. My background is alternative and indie pop, so I think that is where the fusion came from. It’s all a mixture of growing up in church, going through a twenty one pilots phase, and then getting super in to Vulfpeck, Jacob Collier, Anderson .Paak, and lots of jazz in college.
RAG: I'm hearing such a great array of styles on the album. What artists really influenced you?
Miles: Aside from those artists, I was listening to a ton of Bon Iver and Jon Bellion while writing this music. The layered synth vocals in Runnin’ are a direct result of a Jacob Collier and Bon Ever phase, while the big chorus and lyrics are all from my Jon Bellion influence. It all melts together.
RAG: How did this start for you?
Miles: The Wonderlands started when my best friend, Adam Steele (bassist) and I decided we wanted to get serious about music and formed a band called WTU way back in our early teen years. We sucked (a lot) but learned how to perform and how to write during this time. We played with my church’s worship leader Greg as a drummer and my mom as the keyboardist. Once I went to music school, I realized I was actually a pretty good singer and songwriter. Adam and I always had dreams of taking the band seriously, so we decided to do that. We called up an old friend (and my high school classmate), Jill Gavigan (keyboardist, vocals) and she said she was in. She then got us 2 of her friends earlier this year, Derek Johnson (drums), Patrick Oakes (guitar) and The Wonderlands was officially off to the races. We’re all best friends now, which is insanely cool to me.
RAG: Did you used to perform live at all? Do you think you'll be focusing on live shows when the time comes?
Miles: We used to perform live, and all of our members have a ton of performance experience. We have some really big shows in the works around our home town Cincinnati and around the Midwest when live shows come back. We just want everyone to be healthy and safe until that time comes.
RAG: How do you record your material? Do you have a home set up? Do you produce the songs yourself?
Miles: As far as production goes, its a mixed bag. We work mostly with a producer named Tony Burkhart out of Blacklite Productions in Cincinnati. He is my main mentor in production and an awesome dude. I hope more artists start going to him. We also work with Ben Cochran from Soapfloats Recording in Newport, KY for our live recording needs. I also produced two of the tracks, "Morning, Mourning” with my friend Alex Nichols at the Ball State University studios, and “Feels Like” with my friends Saint Lavender and Trey Campbell in my bedroom set up.
RAG: What does someone like you do when you're NOT working on music?
Miles: When I am not working on music, I love to play video games, hang out with my parents, do stupid stuff with my college roommates (shoutout Tyler and CJ) or write poetry! To be honest, there is not a lot of time during the day where I don’t have a melody or a song idea in my head. Music is one of the constants in my life, which I find very comforting.
RAG: What kind of non-musical things inspire you to write?
Miles: The study of space and time inspire me most. I am currently reading Einstein’s book on Relativity. I don’t understand it at all, but even grasping 10 percent of those concepts makes me feel so small, which in turn causes me to be grateful I am alive at all. Slowing down, looking around, and taking in how amazing it all is and how quickly it goes makes me write. When I get nostalgic I can’t help but write a song.
RAG: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans?
Miles: To anyone reading this that likes us, I just want to say thank you. We are never going to stop innovating, giving 100 percent in rehearsal, on stage, or in the studio. We are trying to give people a reason to hope, and a reason to look around and love someone. We literally cannot wait to sing with you all and will hopefully see you at a packed Wonderlands show sooner rather than later. Until that time, stay safe and we love each and every one of you.